Black History Month Spotlight: Rosemary Brown
FSA Vice President Shannon Kelly shares her thoughts and those of her son Liam on the Jamaican Canadian educator and politician:
An inspiration for me as a post-secondary educator is Jamaican Canadian Rosemary Brown. A major influence in politics, education, and culture in BC and Canada, Brown was the first Black woman elected to a Canadian Provincial Legislature (BC NDP, 1972), had a political career spanning 14 years including a prominent campaign for the leadership of the Federal NDP, coming to a close in 1988 when she took a professorship in Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University and went on to hold numerous prominent public service appointments.
A tireless champion for Human Rights, Brown helped launch the British Columbia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (BCAACP) in 1956, an organization which worked for equality of housing and employment for Black people in British Columbia and was instrumental in introducing Human Rights legislation in the Provincial Parliament. Brown’s commitment to advancing Human Rights endured for decades and she held the position of Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission 1993-1996.
Appointed “Ruth Wyn Woodward Professor in Women’s Studies” at Simon Fraser University, Brown was awarded numerous honours including a United Nation’s Human Rights Fellowship; Woman of Distinction Award from the YWCA in Vancouver; Honorary Doctorates of Law from Queens, McGill, Dalhousie, Toronto, Victoria, and the University of British Columbia; the Order of British Columbia; the Order of Canada; the Government of Jamaica Commander of the Order of Distinction; along with being a life member of the Privy Council of Canada.
After Brown’s death in 2003, the Rosemary Brown Award for Women was established, her life story has been captured in the film “For Jackson – A Time Capsule”, a Canada Post Rosemary Brown commemorative stamp was issued, and Brown was named one of Canada’s Top 150 during the Canada 150 celebrations.
My son Liam, a proud Jamaican Canadian Black youth on the Autism spectrum, collaborated with me to research this blog; he was very interested to learn about a role model who is, in his words, “Jamaican Canadian like me”, who “helped make Canada, which is my favourite country, and British Columbia, my favourite province, better places to live.”